Untangling the North Atlantic right whale | WWF-Canada
	© Canadian Whale Institute/Yan Guilbault / WWF-Canada

Right whales

North Atlantic right whale

North Atlantic right whales are among the most endangered whales on the planet. Once, thousands of right whales could be found in the Atlantic ocean, but by the late 1880s they had been hunted to near extinction. Today, only about 500 remain, and the population is endangered by human activities. WWF-Canada is working to create the conditions for the recovery of this species and reverse their decline. 

During the summer, right whales can be found feeding on krill, their preferred food, around the Bay of Fundy and Nova Scotia. During the fall, they travel south along the Eastern coast of the United States to the warmer waters from Georgia to Florida. Every three to five years, females may give birth to a single calf. Birth rates among right whales have been declining, with only a handful of new calves born in the spring of 2017.


© PCCS-NOAA permit 633-176 / WWF-Canada 1

Human activity takes a massive toll on these whales. From 1970 to October 2006, humans were responsible for 48 per cent of the 73 documented deaths of North Atlantic right whales, mostly due to ship strikes or entanglements in fishing gear. Entanglements are common, with more than 70 per cent of North Atlantic right whales bearing scars from these encounters.


Scientific Name:
Eubalaena glacialis
Length: 18 metres
Weight: 50-70 tonnes
Speed: 8km/h
Location: Atlantic Ocean along the North American coast.

Migrate between rich feeding grounds in northern waters (including critical habitats in Grand Manan and Roseway Basins off Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Cape Cod Bay and the Great South Channel) and calving grounds in southern waters off Florida and Georgia.

SARA: Endangered
IUCN: Endangered

About 500

WWF's Work

WWF-Canada is working to ensure the government of Canada creates a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) with strong protections in all three of our oceans. MPAs shelter ocean life away from human-made threats like underwater noise pollution. Protected areas — where oil and gas exploitation and commercial fishing are prohibited — offer right whales and other wildlife a chance to recover. With so few North Atlantic right whales remaining in the world, they need protection now or they will be lost forever.